PARK WATCH Article March 2023 |

Jordan Crook questions the value to the environment and the taxpayer of proposed flood plain alterations along the Murray River 

The Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project is a series of nine floodplain alterations, pitched as the ecological restoration of wetlands and climate adaptation of ecosystems.

In reality, the projects are an elaborate (and very expensive) experiment to ‘manage water effectively and efficiently on the Hattah Floodplain’. If they go ahead, less water will naturally enter these wetlands and instead be diverted to irrigators. All to meet targets set out in the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The idea of increasing the ‘efficiency’ of a natural ecosystem is dangerous. Further regulating an already over-regulated river system will lead to unknown and perverse outcomes for natural areas and our national park. And taxpayers will foot the $300 million bill.

Caption: Location of the nine VMFRP sites. Credit: VMFRP Environment Report Consultation Plan

The newly built infrastructure and access roads will see 4,512 large and hollow-bearing trees removed. Close to 380 hectares of native vegetation habitat will be razed across the whole project, including within parks.

Botanists, ecologists, academics and Traditional Owners have raised concerns that water manipulation will lead to unknown and potentially destructive outcomes. The simplification and conversion of ecological vegetation communities, death of ancient Red Gums via inappropriate flood regimes, the movements of turtles and fish, to name but a few.

Organisations such as Environment Victoria and Environmental Justice Australia have deep concerns about the management and regulation of water in the projects.

The alteration projects will go through an Environment Effects Statement (EES) or an Environment Report (ER) under four assessment packages. The move, made by then planning minister, to assess the projects individually over four separate processes – despite the impacts affecting the whole river system – is perplexing to say the least.

VNPA recently submitted to the Belsar-Yungera and Hattah Lakes North Projects EES. We presented our concerns about the impact on natural systems and the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park at the public hearing.

We’ll keep you updated on the further EES and ER processes for Vinifera, Nyah and Burra Creek, Guttrum-Benwell and Gunbower and Lindsay Island and Wallpolla Island.

*The project is being proposed by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, local Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) and Parks Victoria.